Last year (my first year doing cross) I did about 10 races and none of them (including two in KC) had mud. I think mud is not super common around here in cross races.
It took most of the season for me to get the hang of getting clipped in quickly on the Egg Beaters, but so far this year I feel pretty good at it. Seem to nail it pretty quickly, or at least over the past two practice races and various drill work I've done at the house.
I've never compared weights between crank bros and the shimano pedals, but the shimanos definitely look a lot heavier (and uglier).